Movie Bummys 2014: Best Performances of 2013

Every year has great performances, but this year you’ll notice some themes. There were several films as a whole whose performances I couldn’t deny either. You’ll see that I favored 12 Years a SlaveBefore MidnightCaptain Phillips and American Hustle. It’s no coincidence that most if not all of these movies will end up in my “Best Movies” post next week. Maybe my love for those movies is coloring my perception of the performances’ quality. Or is my love for those movies compounded by my love for the performances? I haven’t figured out which yet. But, regardless, I can say for certain that these are the year’s great performances.

You may also notice that the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor  Oscarwinners aren’t on my lists. It’s not because I didn’t like those performances- both McConaughey and Leto are great. But I liked the ten performances I chose better. It may be because I thought Dallas Buyers’ Club as a whole was a bland, misleading movie, so my perception of the performances is as bland, misleading performances. Who knows?

You’ll find links to clips of each actor’s performance in their name.

performances4Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (winner)12 Years a Slave was never about just the one man. And I understand the arguments against Ejiofor, the same that could be used against Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump or Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button: they’re all passive, and the events of the movie just sort of happen around them. But there’s more to Ejiofor’s Solomon than that. Solomon’s spirit of survival is the fulcrum of the movie, and Ejiofor, alternating from fervent determination to desperate helplessness, embodies that spirit. He’s essential to 12 Years‘s success, and it will be remembered as an iconic performance.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Great Gatsby: The Academy nominated Leo for his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, but I haven’t seen that, and I won’t. Leo as Gatsby was enough Leo for me last year, but only because it might have been his best performance yet. That’s saying a lot after the career he has, but Gatsby is everything great about DiCaprio distilled into pure, honest desire.

Tom Hanks, Captain PhillipsIt was absolutely wrong that Hanks wasn’t nominated for the Oscar last year. Shaky Boston accent aside, no one gave a better performance that the one in the scene in that clip. As he tries to keep it together while uncontrollably falling apart as he comes out of his crisis- I don’t know how you do that as an actor.

Ethan Hawke, Before MidnightHawke has always been underrated as an actor. Not dashing enough to be a leading man, too boyish to play the straight man in comedies; it’s only been under the direction of Richard Linklater that he’s found much praise. Before Midnight gives us a glimpse of the piercing, knife-like wit and empathy we’ve been missing.

Joaquin Phoenix, Her: Phoenix has a totally thankless job to do as Theodore- he spends most of the movie just listening. But watch the clip in this link; as he listens to Samantha, the AI who is now Theodore’s girlfriend, you see him go from true excitement about her to mild embarrassment to quietly worried about the implications of what she says. Only someone who lives in his characters as much as Phoenix does could pull this off.

performances3Actress

Julie Delpy, Before Midnight (winner): Maybe it’s not fair to choose a woman who has had three movies and a virtual lifetime to perfect her character, but Delpy makes fairness a moot point. There’s no way she could have played this version of Celine 9 years ago. The maturing and jading she’s endured over that time is evident both in the way her body has aged and in the way her conversation has almost lost its hopefulness. Both Jesse and Celine were old enough in Before Sunset to have become disillusioned. In Before Midnight, Delpy’s disillusionment is full and realized, but it’s the glimmers of hopefulness that stick with you.

Bérénice Bejo, The PastYou may recall Bejo from The Artist, but she’s in a much heavier role in The Past. She’s no less delightful though, just in a different way. The Past deals with broken relationships and suicide, so it’s not a walk in the park exactly, but Bejo’s performance lends the journey much-needed soul.

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine: This clip is the perfect example of Blanchett’s brilliance. She’s never condescending toward her character, treating her with the utmost seriousness. But she also makes sure the inherent ridiculousness isn’t lost; without her, Woody Allen’s dramedy would have been totally tone-deaf.

Sandra Bullock, GravityIt should have been impossible to get noticed in a movie like Gravity. The actress Cuarón chose to fill the edges of his star-studded screen should have been expendable, easy to miss. But Cuarón chose Sandra Bullock, so all should-have-beens went out the window, and Bullock turned in a full performance that went beyond meer desperation into catharsis.

Brie Larson, Short Term 12: Compassion is a difficult emotion to convey without sinking into corny earnestness. Telling the story of a group home with troubled teens would be the perfect opportunity to fall into this trap. But Larson finds the precarious line between compassion and cheesiness, as her character tends to the kids’ bodies and hearts while struggling to be vulnerable with her own.

performances2Supporting Actor

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave (winner): Fassbender isn’t doing himself any favors if he’s trying to make people like him. After breaking through with his charming English soldier in Inglourious Basterds, he’s really only played villains and/or despicable men. For reference, see his sex addict in Shame, his impersonal android in Prometheus, and this role, as a sadistic slavemaster. I have no desire to write about the kinds of things his character does in 12 Years a Slave; it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it, and I suspect this is part of why he didn’t win the Oscar- an Oscar for Fassbender must have felt like giving a prize to Master Epps. Epps isn’t evil though; it’s thanks to Fassbender’s performance that we know Epps is simply corrupted by his power. It’s also thanks to his performance that it’s hard to tell the difference.

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips: Many actors have portrayed the thankless role of the dark-skinned foreigner attacking the Americans. Most haven’t been given the opportunity to make that foreigner into a real person with relatable desires and flaws. Abdi benefits from a filmmaking crew that set out to make the kind of movie that does provide that opportunity, but he colors the role’s lines in so completely that you may forget who you’re rooting for.

Bradley Cooper, American Hustle: Bradley Cooper already showed us his comedic best as a leading man in Silver Lining Playbook, so it’s a delight to see him double down on neurosis with a character who seems confident and confidently unaware of his own compulsive nature. Cooper’s FBI agent is so inept, it’s no wonder (spoiler alert, sort of) the con artists win in the end. Cooper’s the kind of guy you know is going to lose, but it makes him all the more lovable.

Bruce Dern, Nebraska: Bruce Dern got the Best Actor nomination from the Academy, but Dern’s Woody really belongs in the Supporting category; Will Forte’s David is the real starring turn. But Dern is certainly worth singling out for praise. Woody doesn’t seem to be all there for the majority of the film, but Dern gives all his actions a certain matter-of-factness that is so characteristic of people “of a certain age”.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners: Hugh Jackman got all the attention for Prisoners, but his performance was overblown. Gyllenhaal paints the more fascinating portrait of a loner detective struggling to do his job among incompetent bureaucracy and desperate victims. In what turns out to be a disappointingly standard crime story, it’s Gyllenhaal’s cop that ends up being the emotional and moral center.

performances1Supporting Actress

Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave (winner): I don’t really take actors seriously when they talk about the ordeal they go through when they take on a hard role. If they complain about the conditions or the grind of the shoot, it never fazes me; I always think, well, you get paid to act, so I don’t feel bad for you. I don’t know that Nyong’o has ever made such comments about her experience shooting 12 Years a Slave, but I’d believe her. It’s dangerous to see this role, and by extension this movie, as IMPORTANT, because that misses the artistry involved and over time steals the film of its raw power. Beyond the importance of her role, Nyong’o is captivating as a her master’s favorite slave, which comes with more problems than that designation might suggest. But it is the most important performance of the year, and the best; and it’s not close.

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence is the closest thing we have to a nuclear bombshell in Hollywood right now. The scene in the link shows the full gamut of how messed up her character is, but it also shows Lawrence’s full range as a dramatic and a comedic actress. I don’t know what’s going on with that accent, but it says a lot about how brilliant her performance is that I don’t care.

Emma Watson, The Bling Ring: I wanted to find a clip of a full scene of Emma Watson in this movie, but there aren’t any appropriate ones out there. Besides, the trailer gets the job done. It helps her case that she gets the best lines (For example: “I want to lead a country one day for all I know.”) and has the most outrageous character. Watson, after pulling off extremely earnest in 2012 with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, projects a different kind of earnestness, one mixed with a vapid lack of self-awareness, and she totally steals the movie.

Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Why isn’t Oprah in more movies? It’s almost a shame she’s had so much success with her own (Haha, or OWN! Man, I kill me…) brand, because it interferes with taking on great roles like this. The Butler is full of scenery chewing, which is part of its appeal, but Winfrey (and Whitaker, of course) gave it much-needed, deeply felt class.

Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now: Woodley has had quite the year, what with her movies about teenagers with cancer and unbelievable post-apocalyptic societies making bundles of money. And she’s given great performances before (see: The Descendants). But in The Spectacular Now Woodley plays a girl that doesn’t stand up for herself, a new trick for her, one that she totally pulls off and one that elevates the movie past its plot-driven faults.

Quick Take: Blue Ruin (2014)

blueruinThe best part about the movie release schedule being filled with blockbusters is that it makes the small, quiet movies that much easier to appreciate. Take one of this year’s best movies, Blue Ruin: Here’s a movie with several gunfights, knife fights, and an ending that amounts to a bloodbath, and it never reaches into the cacophony of mainstream action movies, preferring instead a logical framework that considers what it must be like for an average, everyday person to try doing what action stars are only capable of in the movies. Macon Blair, in a determined and frantic performance, plays Dwight, who is seeking revenge for deeds best left discovered. He’s not very good at it, but director Jeremy Saulnier takes you step by step of Dwight’s process. You see that he’s an amateur, but his determination is enough to convince you he may just be able to pull it off. But at what cost? Dwight doesn’t seem to care.

Quicker take: No country for young men who don’t know what they’re doing.

August’s Notable Music

Hits

august1Ariana Grande, My Everything: Ariana Grande burst onto the scene last year with “The Way”. Or I should say she burst onto my particular scene; there’s a whole scene of tweens who knew her from Sam & Cat. Strangely, I had never heard of her. Listening to her whole first album, you got the sense that Grande wanted to reach back into the R&B heyday of the ‘90s and single-handedly bring it into the intense, weighty R&B haze of the ‘10s. Not every song was great, but enough of them were to make you pay attention. My Everything is more of a whole album; she’s let go of the ‘90s R&B idea, and it sounds like she’s between ideas. But it also sounds like she’s on her way to a good one.

august2Spoon, They Want My Soul: The “rock is dead” narrative was boring before it even started. But Spoon exists outside of such narratives- even the one the critics have hoisted upon them that revolves around their almost boring consistency. All frontman Britt Daniels cares about is making good music. They Want My Soul is the first Spoon album I’ve heard that sounds like it could unravel at any second. “Do You” is among the best songs they’ve ever made, and “New York Kiss” is indie-rock at its scuzzy finest.

august3Swoope, Sinema: There’s been a dearth of great Christian rap for a while. After Lecrae’s and Trip Lee’s one-two punch in 2012, no one’s reached as high. That same year saw the wonderful indie-rap tandem of Beautiful Eulogy and Propaganda, and Beautiful Eulogy released an even better record last year. But apart from that everything great in Christian rap has been on the fringes, like Shai Linne’s understated Lyrical Theology series or Sho Baraka’s subversive Talented 10th. Swoope’s Sinema is the first album in a while to reach for something approaching mainstream rap heights. As the ringleader of the great Christian rap group W.L.A.K., Swoope has precedent for game-changing flow. But he’s trying for something bigger here, a headier statement. If it weren’t for Propaganda, he’d have the best Christian rap album of the year.

Misses

august4The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt: The Gaslight Anthem have never been about subtlety, but they’ve never been about hitting you in the head with a hammer quite as much as on Get Hurt. Frontman Brian Fallon has always had a Springsteen-lite vibe to him that he hasn’t been shy about. He never had the Boss’s lyrical acumen, but he wasn’t bad. On Get Hurt, he’s bad. If vagueness or bluster is your thing, then you’ll like Get Hurt. I guess vagueness or bluster is my thing, because I liked it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a bad album.

august5The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers: I can enjoy something without liking it, but that’s not what this is. I can enjoy something without thinking it’s good, but that’s not what this is. I can enjoy something without feeling excited about it, but that’s not quite what this is either. I can enjoy something without remembering a single thing about it when it’s over. That’s what this is, and The New Pornographers didn’t use to make albums like that.

august6Willis Earl Beal, Experiments in Time: Willis Earl Beal is full of contradictions. And that’s okay; it forces you to accept him as a real person, rather than the mystical R&B troubadour mask he sometimes wears. It was those paradoxes that made Nobody Knows. one of the most exciting records of 2013. But since then, all the records Beal has made seems to be in reaction to the success of that one. Experiments in Time finds Beal dialing everything back, and that restraint robs Beal’s voice of the dynamism that was so key to the appeal of the record I actually liked.

Under the Radar

august7Foreknown, Ornithology: So up till this point, I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a joke-rap Christian rap record. UNTIL NOW. I don’t know that the world was begging for it, but after listening to Ornithology, it’s hard to argue we didn’t need it.

 

august8Grace Askew, Scaredy Cat: Seeing as how The Voice is the most popular singing competition on television (take that, American Idol!), calling Grace Askew “Under the Radar” may seem hard to justify. But considering being the most popular singing competition on television isn’t exactly a high bar to rise above, I think it fits. Anyway, Askew’s brand of blues + country (=bluntry) isn’t original, but she’s got it down.

august9Twin Peaks, Wild Onion: You may expect a record with a song called “Sloop Jay D” on it to be a Beach Boys tribute. But the only thing Twin Peaks seems to have in common with the Wilsons & Co. is a propensity for classic hooks. “I Found a New Way” and “Good Lovin’” are just two examples of the kind of guitar rock that would be of a piece with Spoon’s older records.

Off the Grid

august10FKA twigs, LP1: Sometimes albums get really high Metacritic scores and I don’t understand why. Like, we all like alternative R&B now, but did it have to go this far? If I wanted brooding AND obtuse, I’d listen to metal. But everyone seems to love LP1 so much, I feel like I’ll have to give it another try at some point.

Quick Take: The Past (2013)

Film still from The Past by Asghar FarhadiYou may remember The Past‘s director Asghar Farhadi from the acclaimed A Separation from 2011, which made my Top 10 from that year. Farhadi has a knack for communicating crucial pieces of his stories through the images onscreen rather than through dialogue, as if the stage directions written into included even the quickest glance between characters. This gives his movies an unmatched richness. The knock on The Past from some critics is that the final third is contrived. I don’t disagree, but I don’t think it’s any less compelling for it. Where A Separation showed us lives unraveling as a result of compounding mistakes, The Past peels back the layers of mistakes to show us how the lives have already unraveled.

Song of the Hour: “Get Lost” by Icona Pop

[Disclaimer: There's profanity in this song. Like quite a bit.]

We all know the real song of the hour is Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. We know this because apparently if you have a blog you were required to write a post about it. (Don’t worry, I’m writing a post about it tomorrow. I’ll fulfill my requirement.) But if we’re talking about which song has officially claimed “Song of the Summer” status for me for now, it’s Icona Pop’s “Get Lost”.

You kind of thought they were one-hit wonders, didn’t you? I did too, though the album that went along with “I Love It” was surprisingly strong; I just didn’t expect them to have another smash hit. And actually, I don’t think they have yet- “Get Lost” hasn’t found any traction on the charts and it only has a little over 100,000 views on YouTube. But to this humble listener, it’s up there with “I Love It”, both in quality and in potential-to-drive-you-crazy-after-the-seventeenth-spin.

“Simplify, simplify, simplify,” someone like Socrates once said, or maybe not, I’m not too sure. Oh, it was Thoreau, I just looked it up, and there were only two “simplify”s. Anyway, I’m sure he was thinking about pop music, and if he was, I’m sure he’d be a huge fan of Icona Pop. It doesn’t get much simpler than their choruses. And it’s not like they even make up for the lack of complexity by singing well; they basically just yell through every chorus. BUT IT WORKS. Tell me your head wasn’t bobbing as soon as that first “Let’s get lo-o-o-o-o-o-ost” chorus kicked in. Go on. Tell me. I’ll wait for your head to stop bobbing.

But it’s not like I’m listening to this song like it’s an anthem. When you pay attention to it, it’s comes off kind of sad. The idea of getting lost simply for the sake of getting lost doesn’t appeal to me at all. Or maybe it does, and I just don’t want it to. And maybe that’s why I can’t stop listening to it.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians1It’s impossible to consider Guardians of the Galaxy apart from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s canon-so-far, but let’s try. Director James Gunn, he of the infectiously fun Slither and the notorious Super, fills the screen with characters both familiar and totally new. You watch as a computer-animated raccoon (Bradley Cooper) legitimately moves you with his tears. You see Chris Pratt, he of Everwood and Parks and Recreation, ripped and jacked in the most enviable ways possible, distract a megalomaniacal alien (Lee Pace) from destroying a planet by dancing to freaking Redbone. And you looked on as Groot (Vin Diesel), the most original sci-fi creation this side of Blade Runner, captured your heart with his fireflies, his eager-to-please smile, and his movin’ to the groovin’.

As much as Guardians is the product of a franchise, this is unlike anything you’ve seen on screen. It’s been said, but it’s still the best way to describe the experience: watching Guardians felt like what it must have felt like to see Star Wars for the first time. The difference is that we should have seen all of this before, because countless science fiction movies have been made since the original Star Wars trilogy. Not all of them were trying to replicate Star Wars’s blend of adventure and space epic, but enough tried to think that there would never be another success like it. It’s reductive, but it’s true: Guardians is the 21st century Star Wars.

guardians2I won’t pretend the plot of Guardians is revolutionary. The story is a patchwork of different things we’ve seen before: the dashing, nonchalant hero with a tragic backstory (Pratt’s Peter Quill, also [but hardly] known as Star-Lord); a ragtag group of misfits learning to work together for the greater good; a MacGuffin that everyone in the movie somehow needs; Benicio del Toro in de facto drag. But it’s the little things that make even the familiar story exceptional, like Drax’s (Dave Bautista) inability to understand anything beyond the most literal meanings, or the first time Gamora (Zoe Saldana) hears music, or John C. Reilly’s corpsman’s disbelief at all the Guardians’ apparent bloodlust. Gunn and screenwriter Nicole Perlman filled this blockbuster with animated characters that actually have their lines colored in.

The look of Guardians is exceptional as well. For all the Marvel films’ charms, each of them succumbs to a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s drabbing-down of their comic book worlds. In an attempt to add some of the grit and “reality” of Nolan’s Batman films, the colors in Marvel’s films are always a little bit muted. Guardians doesn’t have that problem; it has the opposite problem, if the opposite were in fact a problem. The colors in Guardians pop, assisting one of the few Marvel directors allowed some semblance of a style. There are images in Guardians I’ll have a hard time forgetting, including Groot’s firefly scene, the massive alien head that makes up Knowhere, and Peter Quill’s skin freezing in space.

guardians3Guardians is a singular movie, but I won’t pretend it will have the far-reaching influence of Star Wars. To be sure, Guardians is still part of a bigger franchise with bigger fish to fry than continuing any legacy that Guardians might have. But I’m holding out hope that Marvel and other studios will learn at least one thing from Guardians. While franchises like Marvel and The Hunger Games and How to Train Your Dragon have more monetary, corporate interests at heart, they have been able to subvert their more financial motivations by using them to tell great stories and put out respectable art. Guardians has restored my faith that blockbuster franchises can do even more than tell great stories; they can build worlds.

Song of the Hour: “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae


I’m not a fan of most so-called “bro country” (I prefer “bluntry”, which is less weed-focused than you might think). But I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it; writing and singing songs about trucks, dirt roads and pretty girls seemed like an honest, if simple, way to go about making music. Maddie & Tae appear to disagree though. And after listening to a song this witty, how can I argue?

Country has always been sexist. Well, actually, the music industry has always been sexist. Well, actually, the world has always been sexist. You could probably make a video like this about any genre of music. But, chances are, it wouldn’t be as spot on as Maddie & Tae’s.

While their voices are pretty similar to *insert female country artist here*, they beat them all to the punch with this concept. Certain male country artists have already weighed in; you’d think they’d have a little humor about the whole thing, but apparently not. Regardless, “Girl in a Country Song” is essential listening for the self-aware country music fan. And btw, Maddie & Tae are EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD.

RIYL: Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, not bro country

Quick Take: Let the Fire Burn (2013)

letthefireburnThe oldest documentaries were simple displays of whatever the camera caught with very little editing. Only later did it become in vogue to fill the run time of a documentary with talking heads and artificial reenactments. Let the Fire Burn is refreshing in its use of only archival footage. There are no new interviews, no commentary from behind the camera. You’re given the story of the Philadelphia Police Department’s bombing of the headquarters of the MOVE Organization via filmed news segments from the time, former documentaries, and live (from 1985, that is) footage. This could have been boring, I suppose, the story is riveting. And the story is in the editing; director Jason Osder has sewn all the pieces together to show you that sometimes checks and balances aren’t enough to prevent injustice.

Quicker take: Ferguson wasn’t the first, nor was it the worst.

Best Movies of 2014 So Far

Now 2014 has been a terrible year for music, but a wonderful year for movies. Especially blockbusters. Month after month, big movies have impressed both creatively and financially. Only one of my favorite movies so far this year isn’t a blockbuster, and it was pretty popular in its own right. But see for yourself:

Movies

bestsofar1Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The strongest outing from a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet, except The Avengers, which is in its own class. The plot deftly takes every one of their franchises in a new direction, the action is the clearest we’ve seen yet in terms of execution and motivation, and Chris Evans continues to fill out the boundaries of Cap’s underratedly nuanced character. Now where’s our Black Widow movie? It can’t be any worse than Lucy.

bestsofar2Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Fascinating combination of visual effects and legitimate drama. The year’s best movie so far is about talking apes, and you can’t help but take it seriously. We live in strange times.

bestsofar3The Grand Budapest Hotel: Peak Wes Anderson is still 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom for me, but Grand Budapest Hotel comes close. But Kingdom was Anderson harnessing his powers; Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson unleashing them.

bestsofar4Guardians of the Galaxy: So remember how I said The Avengers is in its own class? Well, Guardians is in the same class, and it just set the curve. The Avengers sequel is gonna have to cram hardcore or pull several all-nighters to top this one. Pure chaos in a film reel. Or, I suppose, a USB drive, nowadays…

bestsofar5The Lego Movie: Speaking of chaos, I felt like this movie had enough for a whole year of movies. But, like James Gunn with Guardians, directors Lord & Miller know precisely how to modulate the craziness. It’s the kind of craziness a kid can relate to, but it all builds into a sweetness that isn’t sickly at the end, avoiding the trap most animated movies fall into.

Performances

Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy: Look, he’s not getting nominated for the Oscar or anything, but it takes a special performer to get the audience on your side when there are characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot on the screen. People are calling him the new Han Solo, which let’s all slow our rolls for a second, but give this movie a little time and I may come around on that. That’s how charismatic he is.

Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: He won’t be getting nominated either, but it’s only because there’s too many layers between his performance and what we see onscreen. The effects department obviously deserves some credit, but if you’ve seen Dawn, the fact that there is a real person emoting as Caesar is undeniable, and that emoting is magnetic for the entire movie.

Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars: Ansel Elgort has the flashier performance, but what Woodley has to do is more challenging. Her character, Hazel Grace, keeps the story grounded from its potential for sap. And it’s her appreciation for love in the end that allows the story to bring you to tears.

Most Anticipated Movies of (the rest of) 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings: After Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, the trailer for Ridley Scott’s Exodus makes me think this could be a banner year in great biblical epics directed by people who don’t believe the Bible.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: Hard to top Catching Fire, but I’m excited to see Lawrence & Co. try.

Interstellar: I’ll follow Christopher Nolan anywhere at this point.

The Interview: I wonder if Kim Jong-Un will make a cameo.

Unbroken: I was skeptical of this sports-war movie, but the trailer blew me away. If they can give Louis Zamperini’s live even a modicum of the justice he deserves, this will be worth seeing.

Quick Take: Noah (2014)

noahI get the impression I’m supposed to hate Noah for not presenting the story of the great flood word for word from Scripture, but I don’t. I understand the concerns, but I’m more concerned that, in a year filled with “faith-driven” movies, the most thoughtful one was made by an atheist. There’s a lot of crazy stuff in Noah (rock angels!), but the movie struck me as an honest attempt from director Darren Aronofsky to engage with the Bible. Maybe his motives weren’t pure, but the movie I watched, Hollywood effects and all, was a real look at justice, grace, and the perception that God is silent. And rock angels.

Quicker take: Noah is a story in the Bible, and it maybe looked something like this. Strong maybe.